Sunday, 8 December 2013
Recipe corner - partridge with bacon, lentils and parsnip puree
Sigh. Yet again food photography that makes perfectly decent meals look like....well, slightly nondescript plates full of goo. Perhaps I need to hire Lesley to be my photographer on a permanent basis. Or take more time and trouble over the whole endeavour. The thing is, when I've got to this (indicates upwards) stage, I want to eat! And Strictly is on pause and I need to find out whether this is finally the week that Abbey trips over her own feet.
Anyway, this was a highly delicious weekend dinner that I thoroughly recommend. It requires several pans and a bit of time, but pretty much everything can be prepared in advance and then heated through while the meat cooks. Talking of the meat, I managed to slightly overdo mine (partridge breasts are very small) so I've reduced the cooking time in the recipe below but keep an eye on it if you have a particularly enthusiastic oven.
4 small partridge breasts
2 rashers of streaky bacon
Several sprigs of fresh thyme
75g dried Puy lentils
Rasher of streaky bacon
Stick of celery
2 cloves of garlic
Tsp olive oil
100ml red wine
500ml (ish) chicken or vegetable stock
2 tsp red wine vinegar
Tsp juniper berries
Small bunch of thyme
3 medium parsnips
250ml skimmed milk
15g Parmesan cheese
Salt, pepper, fresh nutmeg
Serves 2, 21 pro points per portion
For the lentils: Warm the oil through in a large pan (the lentils will cook better if the pan has a big surface area). Finely chop the celery, garlic and bacon. When the oil is hot, tip in the bacon and vegetables and cook until the veg are soft and the bacon is golden. Then add the lentils and stir well to coat in the bacon fat.
Pour in the red wine and bring up the heat to reduce it quickly and furiously. Lightly crush the juniper berries with the blade of a knife or the back of a spoon. Add to the pan along with the thyme and the bay leaves and then pour in the stock and the vinegar. Ensure that the lentils are well covered with liquid - if not, then you can top up with more water. Season very well and then reduce the heat and simmer for at least 35 minutes until the liquid has all but evaporated and the lentils are tender. Lentils tend to be variable little creatures so be prepared for it to take longer, and, if the liquid looks to be boiling dry, add a splash more.
For the parsnips: Peel and slice and then put in a saucepan, covered with the milk. Cook over a very gentle heat. The milk should be at a bare simmer throughout - any higher and it will catch on the bottom of the pan leading to a nasty burned milk smell in the kitchen and a very long washing up job. The parsnips need to be falling apart soft - this will take 20-30 minutes. Transfer the lot to a blitzer along with the grated Parmesan cheese, seasoning and a hefty grating of nutmeg. Whizz to a smooth puree. You could then pass it through a sieve if you're feeling extra cheffy.
For the partridge: I would recommend roasting these in a little foil tray - it saves on washing up. Whatever you use, make sure it is not completely flat or you are liable to end up with melted butter all over the bottom of your oven.
Bring the butter to room temperature and then season well and mash in the thyme leaves. Smear the butter over the partridge breasts. Reserving a dab to butter the roasting receptacle.
Cover the bacon rasher with cling film and using a rolling pin (or similar) give it a good bash. Cut the rashers in half horizontally and drape over the buttered breasts. Transfer to the roasting tray. To roast, preheat the oven to 220 degrees and then cook for 25 minutes. Allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving with the parsnip puree and lentils, drizzled with the melted butter.